New Jazz Standard 5-String
The Elrick New Jazz Standard (NJS)
by Matthew Lux
I have to admit when I was first approached to review the Elrick New Jazz Standard (NJS), I was skeptical. I’m a Fender man. I’ve had my ’76 Jazz bass for 19 years.
Upon first opening the case, though, I was impressed with the beauty of the instrument. The thin and aggressively sculpted body make this bass look a little more modern than my J. Picking the instrument up, my neck and shoulder muscles were happy to find that Elrick has managed to shave quite a bit of weight from this bass. Eight pounds versus the eleven of my old Fender (and the Elrick is a 5-string!)
The NJS has a swamp ash body with a quilted maple top and matching headstock. The headstock is tilted like that of a classical guitar rather than straight with string retainers like the Fender. The quarter-sawn maple neck is set into the body all the way to the neck pickup and attaches with six bolts in an asymmetrical pattern. The Birdseye maple fingerboard has 21 frets plus a zero fret (a 24 fret model is also available.) The finish is hand rubbed oil and urethane.
The NJS comes equipped with Bartolini pickups and an active/passive 3-band preamp circuit with switchable mid-frequencies. Everything beneath the matching wood control cover was neat and well shielded. The tuning keys and bridge are Hipshot and the strap buttons are Dunlop Dual Design Straplocks, which are great even if you don’t like strap locks.
The neck was perfectly adjusted right out of the box. The frets were all nicely seated and crowned. I would like to take a second to talk about the zero fret. It really makes the open strings sound more musical. Having played a lot of double bass, I tend to use open strings quite often, especially when walking. The balance the zero fret brings to the sound of the open strings really makes a difference.
I plugged into my main amp, a Walter Woods with a Harry Kolbe 1×1 2″ speaker. With the controls on the bass set flat, the sound was even, clear and full. Soloing the bridge pickup achieved a true “Fender” sound. Boosting the bass and cutting the treble shook the room with dub power. Cutting the bass and boosting the treble made a nice tone for chording or tapping. Next, I plugged into an old Ampeg B-18 Portaflex. That sound can only be described as being crushed by 1000 pounds of rich dark chocolate.
This instrument really plays well. The B string speaks well and isn’t flabby. The light resonant body creates a deep warm bass response that is focused and articulate, while the maple/maple neck makes the upper register sing. In addition, the heel-less body design makes reaching for even the highest frets a breeze. The neck is slightly wider at the nut than a Jazz bass, but not so much as to be awkward. The rest of the proportions of the neck and body, though, are very similar. With my eyes closed, I still felt like I was playing a Jazz bass.
All in all the NJS is a great instrument. It is completely handmade by one man, Rob Elrick, and as much as I hate to admit it, that means that the quality and attention to detail is far greater than anything that ever came out of the factories of the 60’s and 70’s. The bass as tested brandishes a list price of $2900 (including a hard-shell case), but with a base price of $1995 for a 4-string and $2295 for a 5, it enters the market well below most other high end Jazz style basses. So, if you are a “Jazz man” in search of a 5-string, or if someone steals your trusty old Fender, don’t shell out a pile of cash on some vintage lumber until you’ve tried an Elrick New Jazz Standard with all the modern conveniences.
Reprinted from Bass Frontiers Magazine,
Volume 6 Number 1, February 1999